"Oslo, August 31st," one day in the life of one man in the capital of Norway, begins with a litany of voices expressing their feelings about the city.

"I don't remember Oslo as such. It's people I remember," one says. As in his debut, "Reprise," Norwegian director Joachim Trier communicates universal truths in his second film. For many people, life isn't so much about where one lives or what one does; meaning ultimately comes from the relationships amassed and discarded throughout.

Anders (Anders Danielsen Lie) is at one of those crossroads often described as the opportunity to make a fresh start. But he might be unable to seize his chance, too haunted by the mistakes of his past to create a future. On August 31st, he gets a day pass from a drug rehabilitation center to return to the city for a job interview. He'll complete the program in two weeks. He seems poised to re-enter society, and end up more successful this time.

On screen
'Oslo, August 31st'
3.5 out of 4 stars
Stars: Anders Danielsen Lie, Hans Olav Brenner, Ingrid Olava
Director: Joachim Trier
Rated: Not rated
Running time: 95 minutes

It's not just Anders who can't forget his mistakes. Even his apparently encouraging friends find it impossible not to reminisce, as strange at that sounds, about the past. "Daddy used to party with Anders sometimes," Thomas (Hans Olav Brenner) tells his young daughter. He seems to be marveling both at the sober man in front of him and the respectable husband and father that he himself has become.

Anders doesn't even take the beer Thomas offers him. But as his return to the city sparks memories of the old Anders in his friends, he finds it harder to separate the new Anders from the old. He doesn't want to become that man again. And so the strange scene in a lake at the beginning of the film starts to take on new meaning: If he can't move on, is there a purpose to sticking around to make the same mistakes again?

"Reprise," one of the best films of 2006, was clearly influenced by the French New Wave, though its insights into art and friendship apply to every time and place. "Oslo" shows a French pedigree, too: It's a loose adaptation of Pierre Drieu La Rochelle's novel "Le Feu Follet," which Louis Malle turned into a film in 1963. While the themes here are also universal, the story feels more personal -- which also makes it more heartbreaking.

Variety once called Joachim Trier a director to watch. With the moving "Oslo, August 31st," he's gone beyond the category of rising star: He's more than fulfilled the promise of his debut.